I Survived the Flood

by Geoffrey Clarfield (October 2018)

Italian Mural, mid-16th century
I and all my ancestors survived the flood
We did not deserve it
It was what it was
I and all my ancestors only left town
When the rains, the rains, finally came down
Then my luck was like a broken trumpet
Betrayed by a strumpet
Bump it, thump it, stomp it and stamp it
Catch it, batch it, put it down the hatchet
Catch them, match them
On their path to satisfaction
We sang, “Sumer Is a Cumen in”
Sumer was where
They started it all
Long before the fall
When Utnapishtim
Had it all
Oh, so long before the fall
When we were all for one
And one for all
Can you really imagine a stained brick hall?
That was built
Built so long, before the fall
Stretching as high as Babylon’s walls
Long and tall
A very tall wall, in a very small stall
In my film of it, Marlon Brando wore the crown
Or was it the late Bette Davis, who may have worn him down?
No, they told me
Arthur stole the crown
Arthur took it back
It became a part of
Good Queen Elizabeth’s rack
From abbey to abbey we see it fly
Crowns, shillings and guineas go by
When it rains the doves and rooks perch high
See it as the camera man might, camera in eye
Our  luck was then like those newfangled food trucks
Onions, tomatoes, garlic, guck
Two by two
Zebra and buck
When the flood was breaking
The food chain got stuck
Stuck in traffic
Like a tame duck
Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck
Have you ever experienced sticky glue?
The is the glue that’s made just for you
For just nine ninety, nine
It dries with a shine
Fine, fine, finer, fine
For one more dime
Deliver it while there is still time
The water is coming
Quick, there’s still time
A cover of glue that works like a pill
It is only there to make you well
My luck is like some gluish jell
When it comes unstuck
You cannot survive the flood
You end up in hell
But in the end
You know it’s all true
I once saw the Ark when it was going down
Did it take you to town?
Were you and she the only ones left sound?
Round and round and round and down
Six boys jumped, and six girls hopped
While the elephant slept, the lion stalked
Some children jumped once
They did not return
We lost all sight of them
There in the stern
After the flood
My life was like a credit card
Whose time had expired
Was it up or down, down or up
Or was it over, under, or sideways down
In the end
It cracked, without a sound
Down town, in the town on the down
Quite remarkably
Quite toned down
There are movie stars
Sushi bars, driverless cars
Darkest by far,
Were those left around
Round and round and round the sound
Over, under, sideways down
Would they have survived the flood?
No, they’d have left town
Stuck in the mud
Yet I and all my ancestors survived the flood
We did not deserve it
It was what it was
I and all my ancestors only left town
When the rains, the rains, finally came down


Geoffrey Clarfield is an anthropologist at large. For twenty years he lived in, worked among and explored the cultures and societies of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. As a development anthropologist he has worked for the following clients: the UN, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Norwegian, Canadian, Italian, Swiss and Kenyan governments as well international NGOs. His essays largely focus on the translation of culture, making sense of the non-Western world for Western readers.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast